Carey Wallace of Time wrote an article back in November of 2015 in which she frequently referenced Michael F. Steger, director of the Laboratory for Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University. According to Steger, “The sense that your personal life is meaningful to you is a cornerstone of psychological well-being… [it is] tightly tied to being happier, more positive, more confident, more caring, more helpful, more resilient, and more satisfied in your life, relationships, and work.” In other words, God created us to have a purpose in life and, as you will learn this weekend, faith can lead you to that purpose.
Throughout the Bible, we hear story after story of ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. It is very easy to be intimidated and think that there is no way God’s purpose for us could be that meaningful. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, but that’s because he’s special. That’s what all those Bible characters are like. But, in that case, what about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Nelson Mandela? Mother Theresa? They are big names for us now, but, once upon a time, they were just ordinary people that probably felt ill-equipped to do what they were doing. And I will tell you this right now: If you are a parent, you have already been called to an extraordinary and meaningful purpose: to help your kids find their purpose.
Are you feeling ill-equipped to do that? Moses certainly felt that way; he even pleaded to God to find someone else. He gave all the reasons he shouldn’t be the one to lead. But, as you will learn from Christian Andrews this weekend, Moses was probably afraid because he thought it was all on his shoulders. Now, if that were true, he should have been afraid. But, fortunately for him, God comes and prepares the work for us so we can have faith that He’s got it under control.
This weekend, while you’re hearing about Moses, your kids will be wrapping up the story of Joseph by learning that, all the bad things that were meant to harm him, God intended for good. We see God raise Joseph to a place of authority and use him to not only save his brothers who once harmed him, but also save all of God’s people from starvation. I’m sure there were many times when Joseph wished God would work faster, but he chose to trust, and, in the end, he learned that he could trust God no matter what because, even with all the horrible things he went through, God had the most amazing purpose prepared for him. When you leave church this weekend with your kids, ask them about the life of Joseph. Discuss the purpose Joseph had despite the trials he went through, and then end by asking your kids about their own purposes.
For a few practical ways to expand the conversation about your child’s purpose, take a look at the following tips Wallace used in her article for the different age groups. Take Steger’s advice by starting with today: “We do not have to start with the biggest and most troubling questions about our lives…We can start with trying to figure out how, today, right now, we are going to do one thing that makes the story of our lives more positive, or makes a positive difference to someone else.”
With elementary age kids, Steger says, “at the most basic level, our best hopes for our children are that they feel their lives matter and that they make a difference.” To start conversations along those lines, says Steger, “You can ask questions about what they think their best qualities or strengths are, whether they have good relationships with other people, whether they care about others. You can ask them about times when they have made a difference, made someone feel better, felt appreciated for doing something, or helped someone out. All of these kinds of questions can start a conversation about your kid’s unique way of being in and contributing to the world.”
In middle school, says Steger, “kids are being exposed to ideas, behaviors, assumptions, and priorities that might be completely different from the ones they have always assumed were true.” So, for kids this age, parents can “start conversations focusing on how your children’s sense of who they are, how they relate to others and what life is” have been changing.
By high school, according to Steger, “we hope our children see how much their lives matter, see that they are at the beginning of a compelling and strengthening life story, and have some inklings about purpose.” But the question of “What do you want to do with your life?” is too big for a single conversation, says Steger. Instead, he encourages parents to have “frequent, smaller conversations with their kids about how they view themselves and their lives, and what kind of impact they would like to make.”